Jared Corona loved sports, and he was very good at most of them. He played football in college, knew his away around a golf course and even held his own at ultimate frisbee. But he eventually met an opponent he could not beat.

Jared Corona, 27, seen in the kitchen of the restaurant he co-owned in Egg Harbor Township. (Photo provided by the Corona family)

A heroin overdose took the 27-year-old’s life in the early morning hours of Sept. 5. His parents, Mary and Thomas, were shocked by the news. They said he had been clean for nearly 11 months.

“He was doing very well when this happened,” Mary Corona said. “It’s not something you can imagine.”

Jared Corona, 27, overdosed on heroin in the early morning hours of Sept. 5. (Photo provided by the Corona family)

But, instead of letting the sudden tragedy overwhelm them with grief and heartache, the Northfield couple used their son’s death to shine a light on the ever-worsening heroin problem in the Garden State.

Mirroring the route taken by a growing number of addiction-affected families in New Jersey and across the nation, the Coronas devoted a portion of Jared’s obituary to addressing folks who may be dealing with a similar situation. They did not shy away from mentioning what killed Jared. In fact, they embraced it as part of their central message.

Excerpt from the obituary:

“The growing heroin epidemic continues to steal precious lives across the country. If you have any loved ones who are fighting addiction, Jared’s family asks that you do everything possible to provide continual support, love and guidance as they did.”

Thomas Corona said too many families are afraid to talk about addiction in general or with the addicts themselves.

“There’s a stigma attached to it,” he said. “We were hoping this would help break that stigma and allow people to be more open and talk about it.”

His wife said “tough love” and “kicking Jared to the curb” were never options for the family. They expressed their love and support for Jared, who lived in their home, each and every day, but the addiction still managed to take another life too soon.

The reality of the situation is slowly settling in for Mary Corona, who had co-owned a restaurant with Jared since November 2011.

“At times, it is more difficult,” she said. “Jared and I drove to work every day. We drove home from work every day. We were together so much.”

But the couple is managing to make something positive out of the worst of situations. Letters from strangers, and conversations on the street, have praised the Coronas’ choice to highlight the heroin issue and the fact that it touches all demographics.

“It’s literally affecting all families,” Thomas Corona said. “This epidemic’s going into our neighborhoods and it’s affecting everyone now.”